Skip to main content
Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

YouGen Blog

Why you don’t want biomass!

Posted by Gordon Traill on 11 December 2008 at 9:51 am

Well this is my first attempt at writing a blog, so please be patient and don’t expect too high a standard. To start with I find the term ‘expert’ slightly inappropriate. However, as I’ve been involved with TRECO from its inception I have become aware of many pitfalls which can be avoided, most of which we have indeed fallen into at some time.

Biomass technology can be either very simple (an open fire) or very sophisticated, typically Austrian or German wood pellet or chip boilers.

The irony is that despite being a part of the biomass industry I believe that for most people the technology we offer is not appropriate, and it is not unusual for us to recommend alternative technologies which we do not supply, or indeed simple but less glamorous solutions such as insulation and double glazing.

In the UK new houses are smaller than those being built in any other European country, and this presents a problem for biomass heating. Most machines, however modern and compact, require more space than a fossil fuel equivalent. Couple that with the lower heat load that smaller houses need and it’s easy to see why the payback on a modern biomass boiler is too long.

However, for new developments, where a number of flats or houses are being built, district heating systems using biomass as the heat source are ideal. The heat is distributed to the individual houses via a heat main with each individual property metered and charged for the heat they use.

For older houses where the heat load is much greater; for commercial; for any individual or business producing wood waste (or indeed other biomass waste such as agricultural by-products) the technology becomes compelling.

So biomass is one part of the renewable mix. Literally millions of tonnes are wasted each year, either to landfill (recycled timber), ploughed back into the soil (rape and cereal straw) or chipped and left to rot beside our roads. Biomass has a significant role to play in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Each tonne of dry wood burned efficiently reduces CO2 emissions by approximately a tonne. The challenge is to use this resourse in the most appropriate way.

Over the last few years I have met many interesting passionate people working within the industry, and I hope that I can persuade them to contribute their views to this blog, even if they are completely opposed to mine! Let’s see where this leads…

More information about Biomass Boilers on YouGen.

Find a Biomass Boiler installer

Need help with any Jargon?

About the author: Gordon Traill is a founder director of TRECO

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

Like this blog? Keep up to date with our free monthly newsletter


1 comments - read them below or add one

anne miller

anne millerComment left on: 17 December 2008 at 9:51 pm

We Love our biomass! We live in a typical Victorian terrace which had a burnt out 16” fireplace, surrounded by lovely old tiles. I very much wanted a wood burning stove, and we searched for ages to find something that was small enough to fit in the space available, low enough output not to overheat the room, and clean burning enough to be suitable for a smokeless zone. Finally we found the little morso stove. Although not clean air act approved, its more efficient than the larger models that are, and the people in the local council were very happy to turn a blind eye. The installer and a local engineering firm helped us adapt the old fireplace to suit it (cost £48) We stack our wood against the front fence, and built a little “green” roof over it to keep it dry (this also gives us something nice to look at from the living room window) The result has been absolutely brilliant. We use entirely scrounged wood (from skips and unwanted fallen down tree branches) cut up by hand (great antidote to stiff back from hunching over a computer) Even tho we only use it for a few hours in the evening, the effect has been to halve our gas consumption because we now don’t bother to turn the central heating on, unless its very cold earlier in the day. It probably also helps that we no longer have a draughts sucking our central heated warm air straight up the chimney. Clearly there’s not enough wood around for everyone in the UK to do the same, but not everyone would want to. For now, there’s still loads of wood going to waste every day.. and its free. Simple solutions can be the best!

report abuse

Leave a comment

You must log in to make a comment. If you haven't already registered, please sign up as a company or an individual, then come back and have your say.